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“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers…

An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.
09/06/2023 1:57 PM

“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers……….
An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

The Knowledge Library

Indira Gandhi: Early Years

Naxalbari Movement

CPI was split and now never splinter groups were formed from it like the C.P.M under Jyoti Basu. It formed the West Bengal government. However, a few young radical cadres weren’t satisfied with this development. They felt Indian democracy was a sham, the Indian agrarian structure was still dominated by the rich, and the Indian polity was bourgeois. They wanted an armed overthrow of this. Under Charu Majumdar, CP Marxist-Leninist was formed and an armed struggle was launched near Naxalbari village.

CP(ML) movement found new support amongst the youth of universities and colleges who were tired of the existing system. However, the armed revolt failed as they underestimated the police repression. The police successfully reduced them to a few areas. The main failure of the nasalizes was their armed struggle couldn’t get a wide base. They also failed to understand the Indian agrarian structure, and character of Indian society and widen their base amongst radical youth or peasants.

Congress Split: 1969

Congress party had declined during the period after Nehru’s death. The syndicate had led to factionalism and increased the strength of the opposition. The cadre had shunned party work and was more interested in parliamentary politics. A few harsh decisions of the government had increased public discontent. Party itself couldn’t be united behind Indira on policy matters. Corruption had increased, and discontent people had taken recourse to violent means as seen during the Naxalbari movement. Workers had resorted to gherao by besieging the factories if their demands weren’t met.

Within the congress, a revival of the Syndicate was seen. The syndicate members were increasing their interference in government affairs. They also wanted to remove Indira Gandhi as a leader. But Indira Gandhi was cautious to respond. In the interest of party unity, she avoided direct confrontation but when her supreme authority over the party and government was challenged she responded with ruthlessness.

The Congress had faced electoral defeat for the first time in 1967. The reaction of most party leaders was to shift to leftist programs like nationalization, removing privy purses of princes, vigorous planning, rapid industrialization, and closer relation with the Soviets. This 10-point program was recognized by Indira too. However, she didn’t want the party to become polarized and split. The Right-wing of the congress wanted social development too but by capitalism.

Matters became confrontational after Sanjiva Reddy was chosen as the Congress’s nominee after Zakir Hussain’s death. Since in Indian polity president occupies a ceremonial post but Syndicate wanted its own man as president as he would be able nominally chose the prime minister. Indira had opposed this but couldn’t stop his nomination. She now decided to fight the syndicate by taking populist decisions. She adopted the nationalization plan of socialists. This made her very popular. Now she also decided to support V.V.Giri the independent candidate for president. To ensure the victory of Sanjiva Reddy, the syndicate had tried to form an alliance with the opposition.

Indira used this meeting to accuse them of trying to oust her from power by allying with reactionary elements. She therefore openly supported Giri and refused to issue the party whip in favor of Sanjiva Reddy. In the elections, Reddy was defeated. This was a major embarrassment for the syndicate that ousted Indira from the party for breaking discipline. This led to a split in Congress and two organizations were formed – Congress (R) for requisitionists and Congress (O) for the organization. Indira got the support of the majority of the party and the ALL India Congress Committee. The Congress (O) became the real congress and now Indira was the real leader of Congress and Government. She enjoyed great popularity and power never achieved even by her father.

Indira and Congress after the Split

Now with the full support of the party, the government launched a program of socialism. It abolished the privy purses of princes. However, the supreme court invalidated this decision and also the nationalization of banks. The Congress under Indira was successful in lifting the mood of gloom that existed after the 1962 war. The socialist policies also gave her increasing support from the marginalized. However the capitalists and upper class distanced themselves from her.

The Government of India was a coalition and didn’t have the numbers for amending the constitution. The issue of abolition of privy purses was made a major issue and Indira dissolved the Lok Sabha prematurely to call for new elections. The elections saw an alliance of opposition parties like Congress (O), right-wing and communal parties. They had the motto of “Indira Hatao” to which the Congress(R) responded with the more effective “Garibi Hatao”. the opposition parties belonged to different ideologies and so couldn’t make effective propaganda and instead hoped to entice voters based on personal attacks on Indira Gandhi.

The campaign was for pro-development and economic transformation. The public was tired of the constant breakdown of government due to coalitions. They wanted stability which was promised by Indira Gandhi.

In the elections of 1971 Congress (R) won an absolute majority in Parliament. It now had the numbers needed for amending the constitution. Indira had proved that election propaganda around the development of the marginalized had more weight than caste and communal ideology. She now had the high task of delivering on her promises made to the people. However, before she could settle in power the Bangladesh crisis began.

Bangladesh Crisis and Indo Pak War in 1971

Post-independence the Punjabi-speaking West Pakistanis dominated over the Bengali-speaking East Pakistanis.

The Bengal Legislative Assembly voted unanimously to break from India on June 20th, 1947. The Two Pakistanis were formed separated by 1300 miles of Indian territory. The dream of United Pakistan was however in danger as demands for making Bengali the National Language rose from East Pakistan. However, these were rejected.


Other major differences emerged on economic grounds. The foreign exchange earned from East Pakistani jute exports was diverted to promote industrialization in West Pakistan. Thus in long term, the GDP of both the parts was different. In terms of political opinion, the West Pakistanis were dominant. The Centralized state was ruled by mostly West Pakistanis and supported by the unresponsive military bureaucracy.

The West Pakistanis dominated the army, bureaucracy, and institutions of the east.

When elections to the National assembly were announced the Awami League won in East Pakistan and Zulfikar Bhutto’s People’s party won in West Pakistan. But the Awami League had more seats in the Legislative Assembly and would have formed the Government. Bhutto however claimed the support of the Army and its General Yahya Khan. The General intervened to resolve the political deadlock and suspended the National assembly. The Awami League cadres chose to strike against this. The Pakistani Army launched an assault – “Operation Searchlight” and unleashed brutal repression of pillage, rape, and murder. Some 10 million refugees fled to India. It is estimated that 3 lakh Bangladeshis were killed.

The Awami party formed a government in exile at Calcutta. The refugees who came into India had now reached 1 crore. But throughout this crisis, Indira remained calm. She knew that war was inevitable but attacking East Pakistan would lead to a change in international opinion against India. Indira wanted a war on India’s terms. It couldn’t fight in monsoon when rivers and marshes were flooded. A fight had to be in December when the snow-clad Himalayas would prevent China from aiding Pakistan.

The war had to be swift before international agencies could intervene. It had to be on both fronts as even West Pakistan would attack. Awami party had built a Mukti Bahini.

Indian leadership decided not to get directly in confrontation but trained, armed, and supported the Mukti Bahini guerilla fighters against the Pakistani Army – “Operation Jackpot”. Indian leadership also launched a diplomatic offensive for the creation of an independent Bangladeshi state.

An international opinion had to be created in India’s favor so Indira provided the refugees with food and shelter in spite of India’s resource crunch. India also signed a Treaty of Friendship with the Soviet Union in order to form a pact if either was attacked. Soviets would also block all UNSC resolutions, not in India’s interest.

December 4th was the day of the attack on East Pakistan but Pakistan General ordered an attack on Indian airforce bases on the 3rd. However, the IAF wasn’t harmed and the next day the army and Mukti Bahini swiftly reached Dakha and surrounded the garrisoned West Pakistani army. In order to delay the surrender of Pakistan, US President Nixon ordered the US Navy fleet to the Bay of Bengal. But Indira refused to budge and ordered the Indian army to continue its warfare. Finally, the Pakistani army was defeated.


Indo US relations reached a low point after the war. However, Indira Gandhi’s popularity reached a new high. People equated her with Durga or Shakti. The transfer of 1 crore refugees too was smooth. The war was stopped after Pakistan surrendered as further continuing would lead to international intervention. Indian economy too had suffered during the war. War on the western front was pointless too as India would face a fiercer battle there and annexation of Pakistan was never an objective.

India became a new power in the South Asian subcontinent. This victory wiped out memories of the failed war of 1962. Secularism too was seen as all communities in India working together. The Indian Muslims saw the condition of the People in East Pakistan, a nation formed from communal ideology.

The Shimla conference after the War took place where both sides agreed to bilaterally resolve disputes without outside intervention. Exchange of territories took place and Bangladesh was recognized by Pakistan.

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